Saturday, December 04, 2010

Add An Egg

"But how do you get the sauce to thicken?" Susanna's mother paused with meat cleaver in mid-air, giving the raw pork she had been aggressively mincing a brief respite. "It never separates when you make the sauce. I can't stop mine from turning into hot greasy water with flecks of dried scallop in it. How do you do it?"

Susanna's mother stared at her unnervingly and without blinking for a full minute. Just as she braced herself for a possible swipe with that formidable knife (because her mother had an unpredictable sense of humour), she stepped back, and finally blinked. "You need chicken powder," she said. "To make it delicious."

It was a disappointing answer. Chicken powder was the secret ingredient that was her mother's completely not-secret solution to every cooking conundrum. Anything that was not 100% mouth-wateringly flavoursome during cooking got a spoonful of chicken powder just before serving and was thereafter a massive hit. It was a particularly disappointing answer for Susanna because she had tried chicken powder in all sorts of dishes in her own kitchen. The result was a series of meals that tasted of nothing but a well-known brand of high salt content flavour enhancer.

"I've tried that," whined Susanna. "It doesn't work. The sauce still separates and the chicken powder just floats on top. I make it just the way you make it and still comes out wrong." Susanna's mother glared at her. After two minutes of concentrated glaring, she spoke. "You must add an egg. That is the only way to make the chicken powder work." Susanna didn't understand, and said so. "Chickens need eggs!" shouted her mother in reply. "It's like adding water to milk powder, you need to give the powder what was taken away from it."

The conversation was turning into another convoluted, confusing, emotionally charged fact-abusing grudge match. "That's ridiculous. I add water to the chicken powder to bring out the flavour, why would adding an egg be better? It's water that's been taken out of the chicken and putting water back in should be what makes the chicken powder work. An egg is just... stupid." That was the wrong word and they both realised that a moment too late. "Stupid? So all these years you've been eating my stupid food and liking it? Doesn't that make you stupid?" was her mother's retort. It hurt Susanna, not that her mother called her stupid but because there was a logic to the retort that she couldn't challenge. "Okay, it's not stupid, and therefore, no, I'm not stupid but still... do you really add egg to chicken powder? How, why would it work better than just some water?"

Susanna's mother visibly calmed herself and then composed her face into her Old Wise Woman look. "You need to know, my daughter, that chickens and eggs have special relationships with one another. If you have one, you must have the other. They cannot operate alone. Every time you use chicken powder, you must add an egg too. It is nature. It is true."

There was a ghastly silence. "What... what are you talking about?" Susanna managed to eventually splutter. "Chickens and eggs are two completely separate things. Why... why would you add an egg every time you use chicken powder? You don't add chicken to every egg dish you cook! That would be ridiculous, you'd have to stick a drumstick onto every fried egg!"

"Ah, but I do!" said her mother mysteriously, clearly relishing her own fake mysticism. Then, just in case her Oriental enigma was too mystifying for her thick youngest daughter, she spoke again. "Not a whole drumstick each time, but I do sprinkle a bit of chicken powder on the yolks. Or over the top of an omelette. And if it's a boiled egg, I always shell them and roll them in a little bit of chicken powder and white pepper. You've always liked that. I'm surprised you haven't learned to do that for yourself by now."

Suddenly indignant, Susanna blurted out: "I have never rolled my boiled eggs in chicken powder before eating them. Never. I have never done that. I think eggs can taste fine without chicken flavouring."

"Well, you're not a very good cook then, are you?" sneered her mother, abandoning all her Old Wise Woman affectations. "You just don't understand, you just don't want to understand the importance of chicken to egg. And egg to chicken! Eggs are the essence of chickens!"

They were both screeching now. "How is an egg the essence of a chicken?" shrieked Susanna. "Because that's what chickens are when they come into being!" her mother shrieked back. "They all start life as eggs! So when you try to add chicken flavour to something with chicken powder which is nothing but dead chicken, you need to give it back its essence." Susanna flailed her arms helplessly at this. She had one chance to blow up this whole theory and return to normality.

"And adding chicken powder to eggs? What the hell is that?"

"You are giving the eggs a chance to know their potential flavour as chickens. You give the eggs a chance to taste better, by adding the flavour of what they could have been if they had been hatched."

There was no beating that. Susanna quietly accepted the one kilo tin of chicken powder her mother gave her after their unusually quiet dinner together. She held it on her lap on the bus home and idly turned it over to read the ingredients. Among the additives, salts and starches listed, there was also egg. Susanna kept the tin after she used up all the chicken powder; it was something she wanted to give her own daughter one day.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Switzerland's Seventies Waiting Room

Yes, it was still the 1970s in the waiting room while it was 2010 outside. Decades had gone by, as they should have, streaming past the windows in changing blurs of fashion, technology and politics. The small group inside the room often stood looking out or peered anxiously from their sticky brown leather chairs at the rapidly changing scenery outside, an intimidating aurora borealis of transformation that looked unbearable to them. It was nicer inside, on the sofas, with everything as it was in 1971-1979. Just in case anyone wanted to go outside, wanted to leave the waiting room, there was a coat rack in the reception area, full of 2010 clothing plus a few key gadgets so that the emerging man or woman could pass off into the 21st century crowd immeditately. How they fared a day, a week, a month, a year after leaving the waiting room was up to them. Very few of them wanted to leave.

Occasionally, some risked going outside. They were the ones who took up training, absorbed a bit of briefing on .mp3s and mobile phones and smoothies and Ikea and the multiple types of espresso-based hot, iced or frappe drinks that were acceptable to drink on public transport and on the streets. Some embraced the idea of 2010, got snobby about the grey and brown food that was regularly served up in cut glass serving bowls and shuddered at the array of savoury food in aspic that were the party pieces each Friday evening. These rare characters grew impatient with the phone that didn't display the number being dialled, had no text service or message retrieval system. They didn't like the manual typewriters and ribbons and paper and correction fluid, whining for a bigger screen, automatic spelling correction, cut and paste witthout any actual glue or scissors. These were the ones who clawed at the waiting room door, just dying to get into the world that delivered mail

They were few and far between, these types; they were not missed when they did eventually leave the waiting room. The remaining women would sigh and return to cutting their dress patterns, the men would go back to studying their Haynes manuals, and once the door closed behind the exiting 1970s person, everyone remaining would settle more comfortably onto the sofas, relaxing after the anomaly had gone. It was always the 1970s in the waiting room. There was nothing wrong with that.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Wipe Clean Surfaces

Photo courtesy of Will Wiles.

Maria kept wiping the plastic cover on her armchair with a damp sponge, until the repeated application of diluted washing up liquid wore through the seat cover. Rather than stop with the sponge, Maria simply added a second plastic cover directly on top of the first. There was, by this point, a third sheet of wipe-clean PVC on the coffee table and dining table. And she was so afraid of soiling her bedsheets by touching them, there was a clear plastic dustsheet over the bed, on top of which she laid newspaper and her second best blanket, so she could sleep without spreading her biological contamination to her precious soft furnishings.

She was taking things too far, her son and daughter agreed at Christmas. Maria had served them Christmas dinner in compartmentalised plastic trays, the kind schoolchildren and prison inmates are given as a sort of aesthetic and culinary punishment. When Margaret tried to combine turkey, stuffing and a scrap of charred bacon onto the same forkful, Maria burst into tears and accused Margaret of ruining the meal. Rob accused Maria of becoming a mad old woman who no one wanted to visit. It was an unfortunate cue for Maria to blurt out what she had wanted to say to her two disgusting children for years: "I don't want you to visit me, you horrible, filthy, dirty people!" So they stopped visiting Maria and Maria continued to wipe all her wipe-clean surfaces in a gruelling daily regime.

Five years passed. Rob had two children. Margaret moved in with her boyfriend. It was time to make peace with their mother, who deserved a place in their lives, no matter how mad and difficult she had become since that calamitous Christmas. They agreed to visit together and support one another through the usual traumatic, exhausting cleaning ritual Maria insisted on each time they came; multiple hand-washing, a shoe then foot inspection, two different types of mouthwash, a complete change of clothes, hairnets, face masks, goggles, and absolutely no contact with any furniture, walls or undesignated areas on the linoleum floor. They stood at the door, nervously debating who should press the doorbell and subsequently have to endure an extra cleaning exercise around the fingernails.

The door opened without either of them pressing the doorbell. Maria had clearly been standing in the corridor for a while. She lowered the extending arm she had used to open the door, and remained in the perfect centre of the hallway, exactly halfway between all the rooms in the flat.
"Mum? Can we come in?" asked Margaret tentatively. Maria mumbled something in reply. Rob looked at the plastic sheeting on the floor, the walls and over each doorway. "Mum, are you okay? Can you... can you move?" asked Rob. Maria again mumbled something in reply, her voice seeming to rise slightly. Margaret and Rob began to panic. Whereas she was infuriatingly mad before, this was scary and creepy mad, and her muffled voice was indicating something drastically awful had happened since they last came to visit. Fearing a stroke or other paralysing medical malady, Rob rushed forward into the flat towards his mother, feeling a sudden burst of filial duty towards the impossible old woman. "I'll take you to the doctor, Mum, I'll make sure you get better!" he cried. Maria shot out the extending arm and caught Rob full in the face with an antibacterial spray, making him drop in the doorway in spitting, pine-scented agony. Margaret recoiled in horror, from her hacking, wheezing brother and her horribly still mother who was standing in the middle of the hallway, unmoving, unmoved by the surprise attack on her own boy.

Forgetting every stringent rule in the house, Margaret strode angrily into the flat, batting away the extending arm and antibacterial spray her mother was brandishing at her, determined to reach the old cow and make her speak up, speak clearly and explain herself. Margaret was strong; she had lately taken up military fitness classes in the local park and was proud of her new resilience to the mud and the sweat and the grass stains of her training. An old woman with a cleaning obsession was not going to upset her, and she ruthlessly wrestled the old woman down to the shiny plastic sheet covered linoleum. "What are you doing, Mum?" she screamed as she got Maria onto the ground. Maria gave off muffled, incoherent cries and Margaret lost her temper: she pulled the face mask off her mother's face and felt her fingers slide, almost frictionless across a smooth plastic surface. She saw her own spittle on a piece of heavy plastic sheeting, beneath which her mother's furious face glared at her. The plastic sheeting extended into a tight seal around her neck and continued down her body underneath her lab coat and tracksuit bottoms. She rustled and squeaked as she tried to get away from Margaret. Margaret backed away as best she could from this horrible wipe-clean hybrid her mother had become. Wordlessly, she tried to get up and get out of the flat but the floor was covered in plastic sheeting and she slipped, again and again and never made it to the door.

Rob, through his streaming, stinging eyes, watched helplessly as his mother donned a third pair of rubber gloves and dragged his sister across the hallway into the kitchen. He could see four or five bottles of bleach lined up by the sink and a neat stack of scouring pads on top of the fridge. He cried out hoarsely at his sister but she had been effectively knocked out by Maria's combination of brute force, toilet wipes and a heavy blow from a steam cleaner nozzle. "Don't do this Mum! Don't do this to Margaret! Let her go!" Maria turned to Rob in the doorway and shook her head, almost sadly, then turned away. As the door closed, Rob heard the faint squeak of plastic on plastic as Maria trudged into the kitchen to begin her new cleaning project.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Door To Door To Door

Photo courtesy of Will Wiles.

The local authorities couldn't have anticipated it but they were rather shortsighted to heap all the doors together in the car park like that. Doors are trouble; they slam, they trap hands and break fingers, they get broken down, kicked in, locked up. They remember.

Doors are like mirrors: if you think about them too long, have too many of them together at funny angles, take them at a metaphorical level, they cause trouble and can twist the even the most sensible, steady mind. They really should have paid a little money for a wood chipper, or at the very least, a man with an axe. The unfortunate incidents of Wednsday night could have been avoided entirely.

Graham Barker was the first to notice something odd. He was returning from the park where he had just walked his dog when he saw the old woman five doors up from him emerging from one of the doors heaped by the main entrance. She was carrying a tea tray with three mugs of tea balanced on it and she clearly hadn't expected to serve up to Graham and his growling Staffordshire cross 12 floors below her living room. "What are you doing here?" she shouted at Graham, unreasonably, he thought. "What the fuck are you doing here?" he shouted back. She merely huffed, turned around and went back through the door, only to reappear at another door, mugs of tea rattling on the tray. She glared at Graham, clearly blaming him for this strange turn of events. "I'll call the council on you!" she snarled.

Another door opened and a small child ran through, screaming with laughter. He toppled over in surprise at finding himself outside, by the main entrance instead of in his bedroom where he was intending to hide from his brother. He looked up at Graham from the ground, bewilderment making him stammer: "Did... did... did I d-d-die?" he asked. Four grown-ups, unknown to Graham suddenly appeared at four other doors: a woman in a towel, fragrant and steaming slightly from her bath, a young man eating toast and wiping a butterknife on his trouser leg, an elderly man squinting at a Chinese newspaper and a teenage girl somehow managing to paint her nails, text a message on her mobile phone and eat a chocolate bar at the same time. They all looked around in confusion and then the shouting and gibbering started. Graham decided to go upstairs to his home, where he was going to smoke an extra strong spliff and pretend that he hadn't seen anything. Luckily, his ex-girlfriend had tried to set fire to his flat only the week before and she had managed to torch off half his front door. As he ducked through the gap into his flat, he was quite certain he wouldn't accidentally end up back at the main entrance, and he was gratified to find himself in his hallway with his five new shiny council refurbishment doors around him. He started assembling his spliff right there, next to the kitchen; it had been a strange afternoon and he didn't want to remember any of it.

For the rest of the day, the shouting, gibbering and crying continued by the pile of doors left by the main entrance. More and more residents were coming through the doors, expecting to be in their living rooms, bedrooms, toilets and kitchens but finding themselves by the main entrance with dozens of other confused and scared residents instead. Some were too scared to re-enter the building, others charged back into their homes defiantly, others blustered and screamed obscenities at the pile of doors, believing that somehow that would fix the situation.

One particularly dramatic neighbour proposed burning the doors, suggesting some of voodoo curse was upon them. By this time, half the building's residents had teleported through their doors to the pile outside the main entrance and having had no better idea themselves, they agreed. Petrol was brought out, a lighter was found, the blaze began. Residents stood around the fire, silent and fearful until the last door crumbled into the ashes. Then they began to drift back upstairs to their homes, only to find they couldn't get in. And the ones who stayed inside found they couldn't get out. They had burned their doors. No exit, no entrance. Graham leaned against the doorframe to his kitchen, looking longingly at the Jaffa Cakes next to the sink, his spliff now down to a soggy half-inch in his fingers. He couldn't go in there; he tried but how ever many steps he took, he'd find himself back in the doorway again like on an infinite, futile loop. The same with the toilet and his bedroom. He sat down in his hallway, surrounded by doors he couldn't walk through and dragged deeply on his spliff. His last thought as he drifted into uncomfortable sleep on the floor was that he was going to have to call the council in the morning... the new doors were rubbish...

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Vino de Mesa

It was as awful as it promised to be, and worse.

The credit crunch dinner date at Jim's house had been compiled with a certain amount of young hipster irony and genuine necessary economy. He and Steve were still getting to know one another and it was risky but cheap to have Steve come over for a homecooked meal: he budgeted for 50 per cent pasta, 5 per cent pesto and 45 per cent affordable booze to ensure Steve would stay over and they could both afford to buy lunch the next day at work. Times were hard for everyone but that was no reason not to see one another for dinner, a DVD, some wine and some quality time together, right?

The dinner was established a failure early on, however, when Jim served reheated butterbeans mixed with a tin of tuna in brine because Steve had recoiled in horror at the gluten-rich pasta and possible nut allergy inspiring pesto. And the two individual cartons of Tesco Value Vino de Mesa were meant to be an amuse bouche rather than the main tipple for the evening, as Jim had assumed that Steve would bring something far superior (ie. actually drinkable), seeing as he was the dinner guest. He arrived empty handed, and they sat with their bowls of hot fishy beans, glasses of tap water and cartons of foul Vino de Mesa, pretending to find it hilarious while stealing furtive, miserable glances at the kitchen clock.

"I found someone's bus pass on my way here," stammered Steve when the ghastly silence became unbearable. "I don't know what to do with it."

"Let me see," said Jim with obvious delight that conversation might be revived. He turned the slim plastic wallet over in his hands and then flipped it open. He nonchalantly flipped through the out of date tickets, crumpled receipts and wadded flyers and junk mail shoved into the sleeves. Then he noticed the little gleam of gold at exactly the same time as Steve. "What's that?" they asked each other. Like two Charlie Buckets finding the golden ticket to Willy Wonka's Chocolate Factory, they stared and stared at the gold credit card tucked into the back of the bus pass wallet, disbelieving their own eyes. Jim pushed the cartons of Vino de Mesa out of the way and his hand found Steve's across the table, a faint tremble evident in his finger tips. "Get your coat, Steve. We're going out."

Steve did stay over that night. In a suite, at the Hilton, with Jim nestled into the Queen Deluxe bed next to him. Jim snored until dawn; he always did after drinking champagne.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Feeling The Wobbles
The jelly did have blood in it. That's what Mrs Dimbleby meant when she said it was high in iron. Everyone commented on how rich the flavour was, how refreshing and moreish. And it's good for you, she would remind her red-lipped customers. Low in fat and high in vitamins and minerals - it's not a just a light wobbly treat on a summer's day, it's a tonic for whatever deficiency you might be feeling. Ninety or so years ago, she would have made more of the marrow bone jelly in her recipe too but it was no longer the bonus it was, so she kept quiet about that and promoted the jellies as low-carb instead.

They sold extremely well; they always did in this village fete. Even though for generations they had lived in sunlight and went to church, the village folks had the craving in them, even the vegetarians (
especially the vegetarians). She supplied the thing they didn't know they wanted, and was always happy to slip an extra free jelly to the most anaemic child or particularly pale young man. Mrs Dimbleby knew her duty to the people, and she served her purpose willingly even though it was over two centuries since she had incurred her debt to the village and the malevolent moors where her incident happened had been a business park since 1962.

"Is there any alcohol in the jelly?" one customer nervously enquired. "Depends on the blood donor!" replied Mrs Dimbleby. She loved that joke and never tired of it, but she longed to wheel out the one she had devised about diabetes. Hardly anyone ever asked if the jelly was sugar-free but she was confident that once the subject was broached, she would deliver the punchline with great effect.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Lucky Duckies

Despite being part of the funfair, it was not a fun event for the ducks. They had suffered the screwing in of hooks to their heads that morning, the pond was far too small them all and they had bobbed about desperately all day hoping to be rescued by a merciful human with a hook on the end of a stick.

Very few ducks got the chance to see the hook for themselves; most ended up on the side of a bath or worse, being flung about down a rushing stream for some rural annual charity duck race. In direct contrast to the uplifting stories of the hook, the stories about duck races were full of calamities and terrible indignities. Survivors recounted, in hushed, traumatised tones, moments of sheer terror and horror, tangled inescapably in weeds and rubbish, hemmed in by discarded condoms and crisp packets and unable to float away to the finish line.

The ducks tried to look as perky as possible in the narrow urn, trying to be the one the hook went for. No duck could confirm what happened to those who got hooked, but it was the pinnacle of a duck's career to be hoisted out of the water, lifted high and dripping to some mystical afterlife of bubble baths and jacuzzis. Each one in the urn prayed that she would be next to be hooked out, yearning for that new and dazzling life beyond the cramped and undignified vessel. However, the day was coming to a close and the remaining ducks were sadly resigning themselves to not being hooked out.

As the last customers rolled up their sleeves and prepared to have a go at hooking a duck, the ducks that got out quietly wept in their sodden black bin liner behind the neatly stacked, suspiciously new plastic crates from the van. They had longed and longed to be hooked out, to be plucked out of the water with cries of delight and deposited into the spectacular afterlife each duck imagined for herself. They wept for themselves, lying crushed and heaped in an undignified pile, in the wet plastic darkness. They wept for their friends still in the urn, still pleading with Fate for an escape via the beloved hook. They wept for their inability to tell them: stay in the water! Avoid the hook! We're in the black bin liner and we're not coming out again! The crates - the crates are full of new ducks!

They sobbed gently together in the bin bag, making room when another duck landed among them, still dripping, still exultant, still unaware that the hook was not their blessing of salvation but the tool of their undoing. They would find out soon enough, and the broken ducks in the bag let them discover the awful truth on their own. Meanwhile, the new ducks were excitedly waiting for the hooks to be screwed into their heads, their shiny yellow faces gleaming with the pride and optimism of box fresh bath accessories.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

The View Is Better From Up Here

"[Laughing] It's a real lion! I can't believe it!"
"That's not real. It can't be."
"It's real! Listen to it growl. That's a real lion. I can't believe they've got a real lion in for the lion dance! Look at it go!"
"No! It's not real! It's dangerous. It could eat someone."
"No it wouldn't, they're just going to make it jump around a bit and then..."
"Wow! One bite, just like that! Wow!"
"Wow! Is that supposed to be good luck?"
"Don't know. Probably... probably not. Not for him anyway."
"Well... Happy New Year!"

Monday, February 01, 2010


They were all the same shade of red. The twist-up tubes, the little pots, the long wands, the pencils, the clever pens with built-in brush that loaded up with pigment at a click of a button... They were all the same colour. It was no good how long she shopped, how hard she worked at it: she always came home with the same black trousers, the same single colour cotton shirts, the same V-neck t-shirts, the same straight on-the-knee skirts. And the same colour lipstick, however hard she was trying for a new look. She quite regularly launched herself into a makeover, only to emerge looking and feeling exactly the same.

She looked at the spread of lipsticks on her bedroom floor and rubbed her temples, willing a new idea to come to her. And eventually one did. She went to bed smiling, pleased with the new version of herself she was going to launch the following day. And the following day, she stepped out of her house, head held high, ready to show off her new look at the office and this time, she was going to be really different. As the traffic swerved and crashed around her, as pedestrians collided while craning to get a look at her, she knew she had achieved something new, bold and unique. Deliberately, she stopped at the corner to apply a touch more lipstick to her midriff and to colour in a smudged patch on the back of her thigh, then she carried on with her hips swinging towards the station, glistening in her head to toe lipstick coating and with a smile on her nude lips.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Three Course Disaster

The cream was meant to go with the apple pie for pudding but an ill-judged, violent dash onto the train just before the doors closed had disastrous consequences. She watched in dismay as the white stain spread across the carriage floor and thought desperately of what to serve instead - custard? Creme fraiche? Ice cream? Or... perhaps the pie didn't need any sort of sauce and she could dish up each slice with a small napkin printed neatly with "Go fucking fuck yourselves!" on it. The dinner party was not her idea, the guests were not her choice, the menu was dish after dish of food she hated and the spilled cream seeping into her shoes was the last straw.

She carefully plucked out the upended pot of cream from the dripping bag of shopping and placed it in the middle of the white pool. Then, side-stepping the widening, glistening cream slick, she stood by the doors, waiting for the next station with a completely blank expression.

As she disembarked from the train, she reached into her shopping bag and pulled out a package of chicken thighs which she flung over her shoulder on to the platform without a backward glance. She continued towards the stairs and the ticket hall, tossing fresh figs and shallots and unwaxed lemons and harissa paste and parma ham and garlic stuffed olives in fierce overarm arcs all around her.

By the time she got through the ticket barrier and onto the street, there were trampled, discarded dinner party items all over the station and a trail of footsteps marking a furious, milky, stamping track up and down the stairs. These ended abruptly in a big splash of thick, sticky red wine and shattered glass, from which a new trail of footsteps led away, red and ominous and unswerving like the fleeing of a killer from the scene of crime, onto the next in a hideous, unhinged spree.

Monday, January 18, 2010

A New Wardrobe for a Growing Girl

Two friends of mine had lots of leftover black velvet from upholstering some armchairs and wanted beanbags made from the material. I offered to cut and sew the beanbags and had a very enjoyable weekend in my living room, sitting at my sewing machine as rain lashed at the windows. I took this photo to capture the perfect contentment of the afternoon and to remind myself to do more sewing, especially if I can please my friends as much as pleasing myself in the process.

Gloria was unable to put it off any longer. She was getting bigger and she needed new clothes. But it was awkward to find new shirts and trousers for her new, much more unwieldy figure. She was more self-conscious than she had ever been since her expansion had begun. The symptoms of a major change had started a year ago and she had tried all sorts of things to resist the new shape her body seemed to be pursuing completely against her will. But one morning, she woke up, feeling uncomfortable, breathless and aching and she knew it had finally happened. Gloria emerged from bed a different person, still recognisable as herself but irredeemably changed. And it was time, though it was with great regret that she acknowledged it, to wear new and better fitting clothes.

With a sigh, Gloria opened her wardrobe and selected the clothes she could tackle straightaway. Jeans and cotton shirts could be adjusted fairly easily, opening a few seams, sewing new material in; there was going to be a lot of patching and adding but until she could muster the courage to go shopping out in public, this would have to do. She spent some time undoing stitches, widening armholes, cutting panels and tacking in new material until it was time to move on to the sewing machine. As she pressed her foot to the pedal and the first line of stitches appeared on her light blue shirt, she knew this was it: the confirmed start of her new life with her new body. Though she felt a little sad, she pressed on and worked the rest of the day, sewing an extra sleeve to each shirt and an extra leg to each pair of trousers.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Serves Four

I ate it all myself. The second spoon was for the chocolate sprinkles I added on top. That night, I dreamt my hands had turned the same shade of yellow as the custard in the trifle and everytime I touched something, it turned yellow too. I woke up sucking my thumbs and a corner of the duvet.

The next time I went to the supermarket, I picked up a tiramisu for two. When I went to sleep, I was at home in my bed and dreamt that I was in the olive grove behind a beautiful Tuscan farmhouse. A young man called Marco was walking away, bare chested, smiling over his shoulder at me as I lay on the warm, dry grass.

I went to the supermarket this evening. I bought a tiramisu again. This one serves six.